MEMBERS of the cross-party Budget Working Group have commented on budget plans published yesterday.

These plans include a commitment to deliver all capital projects previously announced and protect frontline Scottish Borders Council services.

The draft revenue and capital budget proposals have been developed following collaborative work over a number of months by a cross-party group of Councillors.

The 866 responses received through the annual budget survey and feedback from Community Conversations this summer have also shaped the plans.

READ MORE: Highlights from Scottish Borders Council's draft financial plan

The draft financial plan will be considered at a meeting of full council on Thursday 23 February.

Councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol, leader of the SNP and Green group, said: “Since moving into opposition in 2017, the SNP group has challenged the Administration each February with an alternative budget, but it was clear this year that this was not the best approach for our communities and constituents.

“By collaborating across the political spectrum we feel we’ve got the best we can out of the budget for 2023/24, given the financial pressures being faced by the Council and every resident of the Borders.

“The decisions have not been easy, and we appreciate the time taken by over 800 residents to complete the budget survey. Those responses have guided our discussions and we have debated various proposals. While we will never agree on every proposal, this is a good outcome.”

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Councillor Robin Tatler, leader of the Independent Group, added: “Managing to produce a balanced budget without adding new savings for services to deliver and without cutting a single capital project has been tremendously difficult, but it means we are protecting services for all our constituents and delivering key projects for young and old across the Borders.

“We are pleased that this budget also maintains and extends the commitment to pay all our employees the Real Living Wage.”

Councillor Euan Robson, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “I welcomed the Council Leader’s invitation to work together on the financial plan and I hope that what we have produced as a cross-party group is supported by all our colleagues.

“We would all like to have seen more investment and improved services, but the reality is that local government is under unprecedented financial pressure. Even with the increase in the Council Tax, which we have kept as low as we reasonably could, the Council has still had to find significant funds to make ends meet and bridge the financial gap on top of the millions saved in the last ten years.”

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Councillor Mark Rowley, Executive Member for Service Delivery and Transformation, including finance and budget oversight, concluded: “In the face of the exceptional financial challenges facing local authorities it is no surprise that many are considering cutting back their capital investment programmes whilst also increasing Council Tax well above 5%.

“The fact that we are avoiding that here in the Scottish Borders and continuing to invest in our communities and deliver key projects is thanks to careful financial planning and decision-making over many years.

“I have no doubt that the area will reap the benefits of this carefully developed budget plan for many years to come.”